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Entries in oakland athletics (22)


Yoenis Cespedes: Three True Outcomes Star

While the Oakland A's are again scrounging for runs, ABs from Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes are quickly turning into must-see MLB.TV. Already a YouTube sensation, Cespedes has been a Three True Outcomes star in April. The center fielder has three towering homers and a 4-to-15 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 40 plate appearances, giving him a 55 Three True Outcomes percentage.

When the A's signed Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal, many scouting types praised the 26-year-old's power but worried that pitchers would exploit his wide strike zone. While Cespedes' thump and three hit by pitches have helped him produce a 143 OPS+ so far, he is chasing -- and whiffing -- at alarming rates.

Pitchers have thrown Cespedes a strike just 37% of the time in 2012. That's tied with Josh Hamilton for fourth-lowest among batters and way below the 48% league average. The most frequent location of those out-of-zone pitches is in on the hands:

Pitch location vs. Cespedes in 2012

Cespedes has gone after plenty of those pitches off the plate, with a 37% chase rate that places him in the top 25 among hitters (the league average is 27-28%). Most of Cespedes' chases are on those aforementioned inside offerings:

Cespedes' swing rate by pitch location, 2012

When Cespedes isn't hitting epic home runs (his three shots have gone 413, 464 and 423 feet, respectively), he's generating enough wind to power the entire West Coast. He has missed 42% of the pitches he has swung at, nearly doubling the MLB average and trailing only fellow TTO colleague Mark Reynolds among all batters.

Though it's difficult to infer much from 10 contests, Cespedes' game has shown immense strengths and weaknesses so far. He might be able to reach the Athletics' hoped-for home in San Jose from his current digs, but his plate approach needs serious tweaking. For ever Vladimir Guerrero who can succeed while swinging at everything, there are 100 Wily Mo Penas who can't.


Seth Smith's Platoon Splits

The Oakland A's have spent most of the offseason selling off young, cost-controlled pitchers like Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey for a cadre of top prospects whom they hope can make the club competitive in a brand new ball park in San Jose a few years down the road. But the A's sent a pair of arms made obsolete by the addition of Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and others to Colorado yesterday, picking up a present-day upgrade for the outfield in Seth Smith for Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso.

Well, Smith is an upgrade when the 73 percent of the pitching population that tosses from the right side is on the mound, anyway. The lefty batter has been platooned judiciously during his big league career, with slightly over 83 percent of his career plate appearances coming against righty pitching. There's good reason for that. While he smacks around right-handers (his batting line against them is about 25 percent better than the league average, even accounting for Coors), he has been helpless versus lefties:

Vs Left .202 .267 .317 20.5% 7.8% 244
Vs Right .288 .362 .515 16.7% 10.3% 1203


While some of Smith's extreme platoon split is likely small sample size noise, righty and lefty pitchers certainly do approach him differently. Right-handers pitch him cautiously, locating just 42 percent of their pitches within the strike zone against Smith (the average for righty pitchers against lefty hitters is about 46 percent). Most of what Smith gets from righties is tossed off the outer third of the plate:

Right-handed pitchers' location to Smith, 2008-2011

Lefties don't tiptoe around the zone as much, throwing 49 percent of their pitches in the zone versus Smith (right around the average for LHP against LHBs):

Left-handed pitchers' location to Smith, 2008-2011

Smith's power numbers might suggest that he hits many more fly balls against right-handers than lefties, but that's not the case. He actually has a higher fly ball rate versus southpaws (47 percent) than against righties (41 percent). It's just that his flies don't have the same oomph versus lefties: Smith's average fly ball distance when a righty is on the bump is 333 feet, compared to 315 feet against left-handers.

Smith figures to platoon with some combination of righty-hitting Colin Cowgill (picked up from the Diamondbacks in the Cahill swap) and Michael Taylor. Smith's pickup seems to signal a particular lack of confidence in Taylor. The former Phillie prospect, traded to the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay deal and quickly sent to Oakland for Brett Wallace, once ranked as one of Baseball America's top 30 prospects but has failed to hit for power despite standing 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. The 26-year-old has slugged just .428 in over 1,000 career Triple-A plate appearances, while the average in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League has been between around .440 in recent seasons.

Smith can do the heavy lifting against righties, but the A's need either Cowgill or Taylor to produce against lefties. Asking Smith to play every day doesn't look like it would be in his or the team's best interests for 2012 and beyond.


Guillermo Moscoso: Ticking Time Bomb

Colorado added two more names to its cornucopia of starting pitching options on Monday, trading outfielder Seth Smith to the Oakland A's for lefty Josh Outman and right-hander Guillermo Moscoso. At first blush, getting an arm like Moscoso might seem like a coup for the Rockies. After all, the 28-year-old notched a nifty 3.38 ERA in 128 innings pitched as a rookie in 2011, easily besting the 4.21 average for American League starters. Maybe the former Tiger and Ranger was just a late bloomer, and now he's poised to be a cheap, quality rotation option for the foreseeable future.

Or not. Pitchers can do three main things to succeed over the long haul: miss lumber, limit walks and induce ground balls. Moscoso was decent when it came to issuing free passes, but he was abysmal at the other two. Check out where he ranked among starter pitchers in these three key categories that do a better job of predicting future ERA than past ERA:

Moscoso 13.9 7.2 26.7
Percentile Rank 29 54 1


Moscoso's walk rate was better than slightly half of starters last year, and that's actually, by far, his most impressive skill. His strikeout rate was worse than 71 percent of starters, and Baltimore's Brian Matusz (he of the highest ERA ever for a pitcher making at least ten starts) was the only guy to get grounders less often. When it comes to the metrics that extract luck and defense from the equation, Moscoso was a marginal major leaguer.

As you might expect from such an extreme fly ball pitcher, Moscoso pitched up in the zone with his 90-ish mph fastball, low-80s changeup and high-70s slider. Take a look at his pitch location in 2011, and then the league average for right-handers:

Moscoso's pitch location, 2011Average pitch location for right-handers, 2011Thirty-four percent of Moscoso's offerings were located in the upper third of the zone, well above the roughly 28 percent league average. Moscoso didn't get killed climbing the ladder last year in Oakland, surrendering about a homer per nine innings pitched. But that came with a very low home run per fly ball rate (six percent; the league average was close to 10%) while pitching in the Coliseum, which decreases homers hit by lefty hitters by 11 percent and 20 percent for righties. By contrast, Moscoso's new home and fly balls go together like peanut butter and tooth paste: Coors boosts long balls by 13 percent for left-handers and 17 percent for right-handers.

Moscoso's good fortune on fly balls hit, favorable ball park and the lowest batting average on balls in play (.222) among starters save for Jeremy Hellickson helped him post a shiny-looking ERA, but his more skill-based stats paint the picture of a pitcher with an ERA around five. He's basically a right-handed Greg Smith (another former Athletic shipped to Colorado after a superficially impressive rookie campaign) with better control. Don't be surprised if Moscoso, like Smith, turns out to be a Triple-A lifer instead of a solid big league starter.